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Occasionally, I open up my social media to questions from aspiring writers. This week we’re tackling the questions you asked. Make sure you follow me @MichaelJaminWriter and look for the post asking for submissions.

Show Notes

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin (00:00):
When I got hired on King of the Hill, I watched, I got hired on season five. So I watched all see all season four, or either read every episode or watched every episode of King of the Hill so that I could get the voices in my head of all the characters. They have a specific way of talking, and it helps to really, to imitate them on King of the Hill. When in when you’re in the writer’s room, you always imitated Hank or Bobby. You’d say it the way you, you know, you talk the way Bobby would talk and you know, dang it, you talk the way Hank would talk to get the rhythm so that you could you know, embody the character you’re listening to. Screenwriters Need to Hear This with Michael Jamin. Hey everyone, welcome back to Screenwriters. Need to hear this. I’m Michael Jamin. I’m here with Phil Hudson. Hello, Phil.

Phil Hudson (00:45):
Hey, everybody. Good to be back.

Michael Jamin (00:47):
Phil is back, and today we’re doing an Ask Me Anything, and I thought it, all the questions were gonna be personal and intimate, but instead they’re all screenwriting, so, all right. That’ll, that’ll do.

Phil Hudson (00:58):
They’re a couple general, you’re good. We’ll, we’ll, we’ll get into what kind of underwear you wear, which is one of the questions we get out.

(01:05):
Yeah, no, no, no one asked that, I promise. Okay. yeah, so what I’ve done today, so it’s a little bit different format than what we’ve done in the past, is I broke the questions out into kind of three or four sections. So we’ll get through everything we can. If it merits enough time to do and split this into part two, we’ll do that. I think one thing for everybody is listening. Just make sure you’re, you’re subscribing to Michael or you follow him on Instagram, because whenever we post the blue screenwriters need to hear this tile. That’s so, you know, that it’s opportunity to get your questions asked. And we get a lot of repeat questions from people, which is great. But it is an opportunity for you to get your questions asked directly from Michael right. On the podcast. So make sure you’re following him there and look out for that tile. Let’s start it off with our, with our homeboy, Dave Crossman. He’s been around the og. He’s actually, and I think we talked about this, he was literally the first person to buy your course.

Michael Jamin (01:52):
Yeah, I a screenwriting course and yeah, Ooz wasn’t even on sale. We hadn’t even, we were just like, we were testing tinkering or testing. We got a sale and it was crossman.

Phil Hudson (02:01):
Yeah. So been around. He’s a super talented writer. So always good questions. I thought this was really interesting. So a little bit long. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna go through it and if I need to repeat, let me know. I’ve been told that half hour sitcom page links determine the intended distribution, for example, 30 pages is appropriate for broadcast, while 40 pages is appropriate for streaming. And that the intended distribution also determines the kind of content that is preferable. So, for example, broadcast requires broad humor like Brooklyn 99, while streaming preferred scripts with a more specific content and humor focus, not like heavier emotions like Barry. Is there any merit to this kind of advice or is it just complicating the process?

Michael Jamin (02:43):
It’s probably complicating things. First of all, when you say 30 pages, he’s talking about single spaced mul, single camera a single camera formatting. Yeah. And so even 30 would be long, even if it was a multi, even if it’s a sorry a network TV show, you’d, you’d want to, your script should be shorter than longer. Cuz the first thing anyone who reads your script is gonna do is gonna flip to the back page and how long do I have to read this thing? So shorter is definitely better. So, you know, I’m talking about mid to upper twenties, probably, depending on the show you, you know. And then in terms of and, and yes, you could have more time, like on a network, there are more time constraints because they have to run commercials, whereas a streamer, there’s, they usually give you a window that you have to hit, and so you can go a little longer and a streamer.

(03:29):
But to be honest, again, it’s a writing sample. No one wants to read longer, even if it is intended for a streaming service, a net Netflix or whatever, it’s still just a writing sample. No one, whoever, no. Who, whoever’s reading it doesn’t want to, would write, just get the, they wanna get it over with, or <laugh>, they just, it’s a sample to see if you can write and, and they bring you in for a meeting and hopefully, you know, maybe hear a pitch on something else. So I always say shorter is better regardless of what, whether it’s intending for streamers or network. And the second question is does the, I guess the content have to be a little more focused or less broad? Yeah, I suppose. I mean, you know, broadcast is for a, a, a broader audience, whereas on a streamer you can have, it’s more niche and, and generally they generally look for edgier content. You know, I hate the word content, but j edgier material. And so, yeah. But does that determine the amount of the, the way you write it? You know, I don’t know. I mean, I guess it’s just a little more specific, you know, I wish I had a better answer for that, for Crossman over here, but

Phil Hudson (04:37):
I, I can cite some feedback you gave me, so mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, episode 33 last March. If anyone wants to check it out, you gimme notes on, on a pilot that I wrote, and you can go read that pilot and your notes were, this is a b plus, and this would play on cbs, but if you want to be on cable mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you need to be less specific. And I guess it was, it was less on the nose, maybe less, less tell, more show <affirmative>. So I don’t know if that’s nec necessarily speaks to tone, however, for example, you know, including language, including violence, including you can do a lot more with a cable type script than you can. Yeah. And I, I get the feeling that the perception is that type of writing is more demonstrative of your capability as a writer. And good considered good writing than just writing something that would show up on broadcast, would you?

Michael Jamin (05:27):
Well, I, I don’t, I don’t think broadcast is bad or anything. I just think it’s, it’s edgier to be on non-broadcast. And when broadcast, you gotta think of it, a lot of these shows are intended to be watched with your family. So fa the whole, everyone can, even the children, they can all sit down and enjoy it together. Right. And when you’re writing for a streamer, you don’t necessarily have to worry about that. And so you, you want, you can, you can make your content a little edgy content, your material a little edgier. You can make it a little grittier. And it doesn’t have to be so neat. And it doesn’t have to be, I mean, there’s a little more freedom in the way you can write. You know, I was watching a I mean take, like, take like goodwill, Goodwill hunting, so we talk about writing directly and versus indirectly.

(06:06):
And so that’s a really good example. Like Matt Damon’s character never comes out and says what his problem is or what he doesn’t you know, why he doesn’t want to be in therapy or why he, why he’s fine. Like, he doesn’t come out and say, I don’t want wanna do, I don’t wanna be here. I don’t, he never says it. He, he says it without saying it. So instead he goes into Robin Williams office, he kind of screws with him a little bit and he doesn’t answer his questions. He evades it by being a smart ass. And so you’re saying it without saying it, whereas often if you’re doing a more of a broadcast show, you kind of want to say it so that, so that junior could follow along as well. <Laugh>,

Phil Hudson (06:43):
You know. Gotcha, gotcha. That’s our like, third reference is Goodwill Hunting, by the way. It’s

Michael Jamin (06:48):
Oh, it’s such a fantastic movie.

Phil Hudson (06:50):
So impactful, so impactful for me personally. Okay. anything else you want to add to that in terms of you know, thinking about writing for those other platforms? I mean, there’s samples and I think one thing you do talk about in your course that I think was really helpful for people is you talk about having different samples of different styles. So right, you want to write, if let’s say you’re writing adult animation right here, you’re gonna be really broad, like family guy, or gonna be really specific, you know, more chip, BoJack, horseman, like mm-hmm. <Affirmative> real world just happened to be set in the world with animals. So you talk about like, having different samples in your, in your, yeah. Cap, if you will,

Michael Jamin (07:29):
Is that, and one thing I talk about in the course really is that like, you’d break both stories the same way, whether it’s for a network or for a streamer, you’d really break it. It’s just a matter of how you execute it in terms of how you write it after the outline, you know, once you get to the outline stage. But on the board, they’re kind of, the way I do it, they’re pretty much identical.

Phil Hudson (07:48):
Got it. Cool. moving on. And again, these are crafts questions. 51 Lego underscore. How necessary is it to establish main characters in the first episode? Is it problematic to wait a couple before focusing on who the story is about as the audience doesn’t get as connected with the characters yet?

Michael Jamin (08:06):
Yeah, it’s a huge problem. I mean, in your pilot, you’re, you’re establishing the world and the character’s in it. And if you want to, you can’t wait until episode three. What are people watching and what happens to the old characters? No, no, you gotta come right out of the gate. These are, this is the world. These are the characters in the world that’s like non-negotiable, non-negotiable.

Phil Hudson (08:28):
Well, I think it also speaks to, and, and I don’t know if it’s necessarily bad exercise, but your job is writing pilots to sell a pilot. I think it, I’m kind of learning that it’s a mistake to invest eight episodes of a fake series that will never be made. And so if it’s part of your practice, tell, make sure you understand how to tell a complete story. Sure. But you’re not gonna go out of the gate and sell 3, 4, 5 episodes of this thing. And it could happen, I shouldn’t say not, but it’s most likely not gonna happen. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So the very exercise is kind of an act of futility because you should be riding other pilots. You should be giving yourself more

Michael Jamin (09:06):
At that. It’s funny you say that, cuz I was gonna do a whole, someone mentioned this had a question about this a couple of days ago, and I was gonna do a whole post on it because like, I think this person was an author and they were hoping, you know, they have the pilot ands all the way through the end of the series written, and it’s like, you’re wasting your, I feel you’re wasting your time. Just write one episode, one pilot episode, and then move on to write another pilot episode. Because if it sells, don’t worry. You’ll get a whole writing staff and you’ll be able to figure out the whole season. You don’t need to do it now.

Phil Hudson (09:33):
Yeah. I, I think I’ve seen in produce shows where they do introduce a character in like episode two, and my feeling is, and maybe, you know, my feeling is that that’s because the network or the studio, whoever decided to put it on air, said, we need this type of character, or we need this. They found a problem with the pilot, and this is the way to fix that by introducing some other character

Michael Jamin (09:54):
Later. I mean, it happens for sure. You take like lost. I mean, the, there was, there were the characters, you know, in the first episode and then you discovered, oh, here’s other dynamics work better, and these characters aren’t really yet great. And then you find it. But you know, the intention is to introduce everybody. And then of course you have to build up as you run out of stories and you have to create more plot, plot lines. You have to bring more characters in. But now your characteristic should be in the, in the pilot episode.

Phil Hudson (10:17):
Perfect. saved underscore. Dan Chaz it’s not a misspelling by the way. Is it acceptable to write morning or afternoon in the slug line? Or should the general day and night be used to indicate the time is also, is it better to use same or continuous when you, when using multiple slug lines for one long scene?

Michael Jamin (10:36):
All right, so these are formatting things, but you write whatever you need to write. I mean, if you write interior or what, just say, you know, exterior street morning is not the same thing as exterior street day in the morning. The extras are gonna be sipping coffee. They’re gonna be holding a paper, they’re gonna be walking, you know, to the, to their office places. If it’s lunch, if it’s day, the sun is gonna be higher in the sky, people aren’t gonna be sipping coffee. They’re gonna be, you know, whatever background’s gonna be different. The lighting’s gonna be different. So you gotta write, you gotta describe the scene, however, whatever the scene is, you know, so don’t worry about Yeah. You know, the, the,

Phil Hudson (11:12):
The

Michael Jamin (11:12):
First morning make a morning, the

Phil Hudson (11:14):
First Eighty’s gonna solve that problem for you when he goes, when he or she goes through the script and they make decisions about what day we’re in and what time it is mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and what, how, what her shooting schedule is. So you don’t need to worry about that. Like, they’ll, they’ll take care of that

Michael Jamin (11:25):
On the text, but you gotta put it in the script, whether it’s morning or afternoon. What, what’s up to you as the writer? What’s the second part? What’s the second part?

Phil Hudson (11:34):
Is it better to use the same, you saying we’re continuous when you’re, you describing one long Z

Michael Jamin (11:41):
It just, it’s whatever, it’s convenient to you, you know,

Phil Hudson (11:45):
Stylistically, right? This is stopping.

Michael Jamin (11:46):
Yeah. yeah. Interior house the same. I mean yeah, there’s no passage of time, so you could might as well write the, the same if there’s no passage of time.

Phil Hudson (11:54):
Yeah. And I would also say think it’s your job as the writing to be as clear as possible. And so if it, whatever you put should make it. So there’s, it shouldn’t be confusing to the reader. Yeah. So make it easy. As long as we understand what we’re doing, you’re doing your job. Yeah. Or what we’re seeing. Cool. Yeah. All right. Uhs Taylor, if you out, if you outline at all how detailed you go into outlining your planning, whatever you’re working on before you start riding, Kevin, I used to jump straight into riding with sudden burst of inspiration. I’d avoid outlining at all costs and write off vibes and, and inevitably get lost along the way. Only recently have I fallen passionately in love with outlining learning.

Michael Jamin (12:33):
Yeah, you gotta outline. I mean, I I, to be honest with you, like every time we write, we sit down, we outline. If you’re gonna be, if you wanna work in television or even film, you have to learn how to outline because no writer is going to be, you’re not gonna be sent off on script. And the, the showrunner’s not gonna say, Hey, write whatever you wanna write. No, no, no. You’re writing the outline and the outline is decided upon in the room. We know what the scenes are, what, what the beats are. We’ve all agreed on it. So you’re not gonna go off, off, off the reservation, you’re not gonna go off the map and do something crazy. No, you have to learn and you have to learn how to outline. You have to learn how to stick to it. In terms of discovering, no, I, I mean, I understand why this person didn’t wanna do it in the beginning because it’s so, it kind of takes the organic part out of the process.

(13:18):
But you wanna work in tv. You know, you can’t just, the problem is you think you’re gonna find the story, chances are you’re never even gonna hit on the story unless you really have a clear map. Even now, when I write, as we talk about, you know, my collection of personal essays, that was the rare occasion. That’s the rare occasion where I don’t outline where I dis I write, I have an idea, and I start writing. I start writing. But it’s so inefficient. It’s such a wasteful way to do it. I do it because it’s my own writing. I don’t, I’m not on schedule. I don’t have to answer anybody. But that way, when I’m writing without an outline, halfway through the story, I’m like, if there’s no story, I have to go back. And I, I usually, you know, trash the idea or I hope to discover the story. And once I discover the story, you gotta go back and rewrite the hell out of it. It’s not efficient, but it’s organic. But on tv, and no, you gotta, it doesn’t work that way. TV’s much more collaborative. So you have to write, you, you would never go off without an outline.

Phil Hudson (14:13):
Yeah. I think the, if there’s anything that you’ve brought into screenwriting, podcasting or screenwriting social media mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, it’s awareness of the process, right? There is an actual process that writers follow. If you go to a writer’s room, the process is more or less gonna be the same. You’re going to figure out what your story, you’re telling, you’re gonna break the story, you’re gonna outline the story. You’re gonna, you’re gonna do all of those steps. And I think too often, a lot of people, you know, some people who are, in my opinion, younger, they, they feel constrained by the rules, and they don’t want to, they don’t want to be formulaic. And that’s like a big conversation I hear all the time. But I think what you’re saying is there’s a process, and if your job is, if your goal is to be a professional writer, even if you have aspirations of being a top mega, super showrunner, like a JJ Abrams, you still have to understand this process. And once you go through this process and you understand it, then you can tweak things and you can change it and make it your own process. But it is all built on this foundation of the process that Yeah. Professional writers use.

Michael Jamin (15:14):
Yeah. Yeah. We all do it. Yeah.

Phil Hudson (15:17):
All right. Follow up to that. When outlining, is there a specific structure you use to stay on track? Or do you just inherently know?

Michael Jamin (15:24):
No, I mean, that’s what we teach in the chorus is, is story structure. So there is always the same. It’s, it’s a structure. It’s a, again, that’s not to say it’s formulaic, it’s just knowing what kind of beats for the outbreak, what the act break moments are, what the middle act two is. And, and if you don’t have these moments in, in your story you, you’ll let, you’ll, you’ll notice it. I watched a movie a couple nights ago on a streamer, and it was like an indie, and these moments were lacking. And you felt it. You felt it. You felt like it was getting boring. It was getting slow. And so you just need it.

Phil Hudson (15:57):
I just had an experience. Wonder if we watched the same show? <Laugh> show?

Michael Jamin (16:02):
I don’t wanna say. I’ll say

Phil Hudson (16:04):
Off the air. Yeah.

Michael Jamin (16:05):
Off.

Phil Hudson (16:08):
Yeah. Awesome. Moving on. Denzy Pops in LA How do you get into the head of each character as you write, especially when it is a character of someone else’s creation,

Michael Jamin (16:19):
That’s your job. I mean, every show I’ve written on has been created by somebody else. So for example, when I got hired on King of the Hill, I watched, I got hired on season five. So I watched all se, all season four, or either read every episode or watched every episode of King of the Hill so that I could get the voices in my head of all the characters. They have a specific way of talking, and it helps to really, to imitate them on King of the Hill. When in, when you’re in the writer’s room, you always imitated Hank or Bobby. You’d say it the way, ha you, you know, you talk the way Bobby would talk and, you know, dang the hill. You talk the way Hank would talk to get the rhythm so that you could you know, embody the character. So don’t be afraid to say these, to imitate the character’s voice out loud. Hey, it’s Michael Jamin. If you like my videos and you want me to email them to you for free, join my watch list. Every Friday I send out my top three videos. These are for writers, actors, creative types. You can unsubscribe whenever you want. I’m not gonna spam you, and it’s absolutely free. Just go to michaejamin.com/watchlist

Phil Hudson (17:29):
A and j. Once you have your main plot points, how do you begin to flesh out in between the in between? So it all feels tight and every scene has a point.

Michael Jamin (17:38):
Yeah. Well, every scene has to have a point. And, and, and again, we talk, we teach that all in the screenwriters course. But yeah, if a scene, if a scene can be cut, if you can remove the scene from your, from your Teleplay movie and the story still holds together, you, you haven’t done your job, it’s a bad scene. It, you know, every scene has to have a purpose. And the character’s attitude at the top of the scene must be different by the end of the scene. And if it’s not, what’s the scene for is just because you just want to do a scene at a carnival. Well, that’s not good enough. You have to have, there has to be a reason the characters have to change in some small way. And so yeah, unpacking all that, that’s, it’s a good, that’s a great question. That’s what we teach, but that’s, it’s so, it’s so critical, you know? Yeah.

Phil Hudson (18:26):
Yeah. I’m trying to remember. It might have been like episode 34, 35 where you talking about fractals. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I think that’s worth listening to, right? With how everything is a sum. The, the hole is a sum of the parts, right?

Michael Jamin (18:39):
Yeah. If you think of a movie, it has a shape to it. And then if you think of a scene in that movie, it all, it has the similar shape. And if you think of a, a line, it can also have the similar shape, but you’re just expanding. And that’s a fractal. And so if you look a fractal as an example of, like, if you look at the tree, the tree has branches on it. But if you look on the branch, the branches also have branches coming out. And then if you look at the leaves on the back of the leaves, you’ll see the veins of the leaf also have branches coming at ’em. That’s a fractal. And that’s kind of like how you’re repeating these shapes over and over again in, even in your storytelling.

Phil Hudson (19:12):
Yeah. I loved that podcast, that episode. Go check that out. Wolfen, how do you practice deliberately to become a better writer?

Michael Jamin (19:21):
Well, you have to write, I mean, that’s really the only way of doing it is to sit down and write, and write and write. And it could be a long journey. So this could be your life’s journey, unfortunately. And so it doesn’t mean you’re gonna, you know, so many people want to come out of the gate, Hey, here’s a script, hire me. It’s like, well, but if you’re scripted, if you’re not a good writer yet, you’re not gonna get hired. You understand that, right? I mean, and so it’s a long, long journey and hopefully it’s rewarding. But yeah, you gotta put your butt in the chair and just write every day. And, and I would say, don’t worry about refining your, your, your, whatever you’re working on, draft after draft. Just write your movie, set it aside, and write a second one, and then the third one, and your fifth movie is going to be better than the first.

(20:04):
It just is. So stop. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> polishing that first movie and move on. And the same, someone left a comment the other day saying they sh you know, they struggle when they write their they’re writing a piece. And they were, they spent so much time in that first paragraph, getting it just perfect. And it’s like, is that normal? And it’s like, it is normal. It’s just not good. And I’ve done the same thing myself. You’re, you’re making it absolutely perfect, but meanwhile, it, when you get halfway through the piece, you’re gonna realize, oh, you know what? I gotta rewrite that whole first page. Anyway. It’s all, it’s all different. So don’t waste your time getting it all perfect. Just get it out there, and then you can put another coat, another coat, then put it aside, and then move on and look at it with fresh eyes in the future.

Phil Hudson (20:45):
Yeah. And I’ll add to that, if you feel, I think that comes from a fear that you’ll never be able to write anything else, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, but this is the only thing you have. Well, you are correct unless you write something else,

Michael Jamin (20:55):
Right? Yeah.

Phil Hudson (20:56):
So write something else,

Michael Jamin (20:58):
Right? That’s your job. Cool.

Phil Hudson (21:02):
Official Cody Ladue or Ledo, I don’t see French lid. Wow. Yeah. What’s the difference in writing for a multi-cam show versus a one cam show or single cam?

Michael Jamin (21:13):
Well there’s, there’s this structure wise, very similar in terms of the story structure. It’s very similar, but you have certain restraints on a multi-camera show. Everything’s shot, live on a sound stage in front of an audience. So on the sound stage, you’re not gonna have a lot of room for different sets. You’re gonna have a standing set that’s there every week you know, and then you’re gonna have room for a couple of what they call swing sets that you, you can build them a new set this week, there’s room, but you don’t have a ton of room. So you know, for, let’s say, just shoot me, the standing set was the bullpen, the office for the, everyone worked. And then there was j Jack’s office to the left of that. We all, we, that was always up. And then Nina’s office was always on their right.

(21:54):
And that was it, right? Those were the three standing sets. And then sometimes we had room, we always had room for swing sets, which we’d built. So maybe it would be like a restaurant we’re going to, or you know, a theater or whatever where the characters are going to. But you only have room for like two or three of those on the sta on the stage. So when you’re breaking your story, keep in mind you don’t have a lot of room. You can’t have a million sets. Whereas a multi, a single camera show, you can have far more, because often you’re shooting those on location. If sometimes you’re shooting on a sound stage, but often you go on location, so you could open it up a little bit more. There’s also sing multi-camera shows also feel a little more like live theater because you, you have the audience there. So you tend, the actors tend to get a little bigger kind of playing it for the laugh. So you usually won’t put more jokes on a pa on, on the page for a multi-camera show. Not necessarily though. Just depends on the show versus a single camera.

Phil Hudson (22:48):
Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. And it seems like there’s a resurgence of multi-cam

Michael Jamin (22:54):
Is there right now. I haven’t, I mean, they always say that and they never put ’em on cut on the air, but

Phil Hudson (23:00):
<Laugh>, there you go. Maybe I’m just reading the, the trades too much. Alright. I am Chris McClure. How do you and your partner split the writing once the story’s broken, you each take scenes, write the scenes together, one type, one pace. We’ve answered this before, but I thought it was worth bringing up, cuz it comes up quite often.

Michael Jamin (23:18):
Yeah. It just depends on the partnership. Some, some partners, I’ll do act two. You do act one, but the way my partner and I do it, we literally sit in the same room. We have a monitor, a computer with two monitors on it. And so we literally act out the scenes together. Every scene that we write, we do it together. And so that’s just how we do it. But you could do it any way you wanna do it with your partner. But I, I would assume that, you know, rewriting your partner’s work without their permission or without them in the room might be a little, I know it’s people who do it, but it seems like a recipe to piss somebody off.

Phil Hudson (23:50):
Yeah, I’ve, I’ve heard a successful screenwriting partnership that does a lot of stuff, and they assign scenes in order odds evens mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and they write one senate, the other one rewrites. It adds their scene. The other person rewrites the other two. So by the end, by the time they’re done, they’ve rewritten like 20 times. But that’s just comes from trust of being professional, working together for years and years.

Michael Jamin (24:14):
My bosses Brad Buckner and eu, Eugene, Russ Leming, my first bosses that I worked for, that’s how they did it. They would trade, they, you know, alternate scenes, but that’s not how we do it. Yeah.

Phil Hudson (24:24):
Yeah. Awesome. leaf, the leaf edits, how much detail do you typically put in a scene description or an action a character is doing? I’ve seen scripts with barely any, and some that have more, is it dependent on drama versus comedy?

Michael Jamin (24:40):
The, I say the less the better because no one wants to read those you know, direct stage directions. They’re just, no one reads ’em. I don’t read ’em. I’ll skip right over them. And so I feel like the, the shorter you can make it, the better. If you have to make it longer, make it interesting to read so that, you know, maybe throw a joke in there or make it, write it in such a way that people, but that’s hard. Write in such a way that makes people wanna read it. Especially if it’s a, a mystery or a thriller. Maybe you want to, you can jazz it up by, and then he walked down the corner. He walks down the corner. Is that, is that a noise? He’s, he, you know, he halts in his, you know, whatever you can ma you can write it in such a way that maybe it makes it compelling to to read. But when in doubt I say shorter.

Phil Hudson (25:23):
Yeah. I think you, my first spec that you ever, I wrote and sent to you, you referred to it as flowery descriptions, right? Yeah. You could. The first time I sat on the screen, on the software, I sat down and I was like, I describing what was in the room. Like I would if it was a novel. And it’s just like totally unnecessary.

Michael Jamin (25:40):
It’s, no, you don’t need to do that. Right?

Phil Hudson (25:41):
There’s whole departments that do that.

Michael Jamin (25:43):
Yeah. Let them do it. You could say it’s a dimly litz barley, a dimly lit, sparse room. Yeah. You’d only describe what what you absolutely need. If there’s a, if there’s an ax in the corner of the room and the ax is going to come into play you know, later in the scene, then you might wanna set it up, say, you know,

Phil Hudson (26:00):
Yeah. Checkoffs a gun, right? Yeah. If there’s a gun, if there’s a gun in the, the first act that needs to go off in the third act,

Michael Jamin (26:05):
Right? Yeah. Right. But don’t put it there. If it’s not gonna go off, we don’t need to know about it.

Phil Hudson (26:09):
Yeah. It’s just the detail we’re keeping in our head. Cool. this is my last craft question. We can move into professional questions if you want. Wendy h Morgan, can you talk about how to find the funny in your writing?

Michael Jamin (26:24):
Yeah, I mean, that’s hard. That’s one thing I say, you know, in, in, in the course that we have, there’s a module on joke writing and, and, and and, you know, finding humor and, but I’m, I’m pretty upfront that I don’t think hum comedy can be taught. I don’t think you could be taught to be funny. I think whatever level you’re at, I could probably get you a little higher. I could show you the tricks that I use to get you a little funnier, but if you’re not funny, I can’t teach you how to be funny. And I don’t think anybody can. I think they’re just trying to get money outta you. Personally, what I do as a comedy writer, I I I’m able to access the child in me pretty easily. And so children, that’s why a lot of my humor is very mature, but children are very black and white.

(27:11):
They see things black and white as opposed to gray. They don’t learn gray, gray, gray has to be learned. And so children also very literal. The very, the very first joke I ever made was like, I was a baby in the crib, and I don’t remember my mo but my mom, my mother reminds me of it. She said, oh, Michael, you’re so handsome. And I held up my hands like that because I, I heard some hands. She said, handsome, I heard some hands that’s literal. And she laughed and everyone laughed, you know. The second joke I made, I was honestly, I was only a couple. I was like a year or this one, I remember I was probably three or what, four, whatever. And somehow we’re at a party and somehow, because family gathering, I walk into the room carrying a copy of Playboy magazine and I’m a old boy and it’s open to the centerfold and everyone sees this and everyone’s aghast, right?

(28:05):
And then all eyes turn to my mother, how is she gonna handle this one? And and my mother wanted to play cool. She didn’t want to traumatize me. So she goes, Michael, what is that woman wearing? And so I look at the centerfold, look at my mom, look back at the centerfold, and I go, earrings, because that’s all she was wearing was freaking earrings. And everyone lost it. But I wasn’t trying to be funny, I was just being literal. What was she wearing? That’s the only thing she was wearing was earrings. Yeah. so I did, I’m able, if that’s what I see it, I, I’m able to access. And I’m always thinking of, and it can be annoying. I could be definitely a little annoying. And so I don’t, you know, you know, people who are always on, they’re always pitching jokes and you never get to know this person cuz they’re always on.

(28:49):
It’s like, dude, just relax. I, I can do that. I don’t want to. Cause I find it so annoying. But whenever I’m, when I’m driving the car, I’m thinking, what’s funny about that? What’s funny about that? What’s funny about that? And so it’s just like an exercise I do. And I don’t say it out loud cause it’s so fricking annoying, but it’s almost just like this itch that I have to scratch or else you know, we were driving to we were driving to Arizona this a couple weeks ago to visit my uncle. And there’s part of it by Palms, Palm Springs, you’re driving, is it Palm Springs? You’re driving, there’s these giant windmills. Giant windmills, mills, valley palms, Palm Desert. What is you going on? That’s what it’s, right. Yep. So these giant windmills generating electricity. And I’m, first, I’m thinking, I’m thinking, it’s so freaking hot here.

(29:34):
They have to have giant fans to cool off the plate, <laugh>, you know, but like, I’m not saying any of this cause it’s so freaking annoying. But that’s what’s, it’s my thinking in my mind. I’m thinking, oh, fans to cool it off cause it’s so hot here. But, but that’s how I that’s just how I approach it. And there’s other tricks that I talk about. But again, I don’t promise I can make you funny. I can, I could just make you a little funnier. And there’s certain things that we, as comedy writers do to make things a little funnier and then go through the list. But those are, those are a few.

Phil Hudson (30:03):
All right. So at this point, I think we’re gonna split into two. We got a ton of questions left. So next step, or the next episode is gonna be professional questions some aspirational questions, and then general question that came in. So definitely worth sticking around for those. Michael, thank you for being here. Thanks for having us. Everyone. Go follow Michael. @MichaelJaminWriter On social media. A couple free things or things you should know about. We do offer a free lesson. The first lesson of the course Michael’s been talking about. That’s available michaeljamin.com/free. Also, his course that he’s mentioned a couple times, go from michaeljamin.com/course. Go check those out. The course when this comes up might be closed, so just keep that in mind.

(30:46):
We’ve moved to a almost like a an enrollment period because it’s just a demand on time for you and for me and for the support staff. It’s just taking up a ton of time when we onboard so many people at once. So we’re gonna split that up a little bit. So if it’s not there, go sign up and you can get notified when it does open up. There’s the watch list. You can get your top three pieces of content every week delivered in your inbox on fridays michaeljamin.com/watchlist, and then your paper orchestra. You’re not currently touring, right? But

Michael Jamin (31:17):
You no, we’re making the, we’re we’re actually making the ebook now. I gotta talk to you more about that when we get off the <laugh>, we get off the call. Yeah, that’ll be, that’ll be coming out hopefully this summer. My book, it’ll be dropping as an e-book a paperback and, and an audiobook, and then they’ll start touring again. And so if they want, awesome people want to be notified. When any of those are ready, you can go to michaeljamin.com/upcoming and just put your email there.

Phil Hudson (31:42):
Great. Anything else, Michael?

Michael Jamin (31:44):
That’s it. I’m excited for part two.

Phil Hudson (31:46):
All right.

Michael Jamin (31:47):
This

Phil Hudson (31:47):
Q and a for the next one.

Michael Jamin (31:49):
Okay, thanks everyone.

Phil Hudson (31:51):
This has been an episode of Screenwriters Need To Hear This with Michael Jamin and Phil Hudson. If you’d like to support this podcast, please consider subscribing, leaving your review and sharing this podcast with someone who needs to hear today’s subject. For free daily screenwriting tips, follow Michael on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @MichaelJaminWriter. You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @PhilAHudson. This episode was produced by Phil Hudson and edited by Dallas Crane. Until next time, keep writing.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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